Billy Manes’ Lost Project

Over a year ago, Manes called me to talk about bridging the gap between the left and right in gay politics.

By Jacob Engels

After a busy week, I finally got to sit down and watch Vicki Nantz’s documentary film “Billy & Alan.” I had never seen it before, but wanted to watch it to understand more about Billy Manes, someone our community lost way too early in late July.

Seeing the raw emotion, his fight for his husband and drive to help others understand, reminded me of a project Billy had approached me about in late 2015.

Watch the film below on Vimeo.

“Billy & Alan: In life, love & death, equality matters” from Vicki Nantz on Vimeo.

Shortly after he joined the LGBT publication Watermark, Billy called me out of the blue.

He wanted to write an in-depth analysis of why some members of the LGBT community were Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians and how they reconciled that with their sexuality and fight for equal rights.

For those who knew Billy well, they describe a certain energy and aura that allowed him to craft these engrossing, uncomfortable, and raw stories of being the complex creatures that we all are.

Oddly, I knew that the stories of LGBT people on the conservative end of the political spectrum, would be best told by a colorful progressive like Billy.

A lot of people, myself included, struggled with “coming out” publicly, especially because of some notably horrid close-minded goblins like Florida Family Policy Council’s John Stemberger.

Some decided to keep quiet, while others actively worked against our own interests. I marched against marriage equality in Florida, toed the homophobic hard-line to outdo my conservative counterparts.

Slowly, but surely however, I realized the crooked internalization would catch up with me sooner or later. Not just politically, but emotionally/mentally/physically.

Billy wanted to tell stories like this and really explore the inner turmoil that so many conservative LGBT people have gone through, while still supporting a party, that at times, worked feverishly against us.

I would eventually come out publicly after the terrorist attack at Pulse, and have counseled dozens of others in the LGBT community about how to admit first that they were gay, and secondarily that they were Republicans/Libertarians.

Though he never got to immerse himself in the psyche of LGBT conservatives and talk to people like me about our journey, I think it would have been his greatest work.

He was always interested in diving in headfirst on difficult discussions like this, and never denigrated or demeaned me for the journey I’ve gone through with my sexuality or politics.

I wish Billy could have told these stories, and I think Central Floridians owe it to ourselves to talk more openly about the diversity of political beliefs and opinions among the LGBT community.

Just as our paths to personal acceptance share certain similarities, we all have our own unique and equally important experiences along the way that have shaped us in total as human beings.

Denying diversity of political thought in LGBT life is as offensive as denying the different ways we all discovered ourselves.

Billy understood that. In his memory, I hope that we can all remember that blatant truth and understand that our differences is what unites us.


Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, and Fox News to name a few. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.